2014-10-10 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

It’s the time for pumpkins everywhere
By Connie Wendell
Special to the Post

You can certainly feel the crisp fall air and you know it’s time for pumpkins. Pumpkins are not just for Halloween and jack-o’-lanterns, it is also for cooking. Pumpkin is one of the healthiest, most delicious foods around.

My family all love pumpkin and the more pumpkin they eat, the happier they are.

I have included some pumpkin recipes this time that might seem a bit different than the norm. They are delicious, so give them a try you may become a fan.

Red lentil pumpkin soup

2 teaspoons canola oil; 1 cup chopped onion; 1 teaspoon chopped garlic; 1 ½ cups vegetable broth, divided; 1 cup dried small red lentils; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; ¼ teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1/8 teaspoon red pepper; 1 cup water; ¾ cup canned pumpkin; 1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger; 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; 3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt; ¼ cup unsalted pumpkin seed kernels, toasted; and ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro.

Heat a large Dutch oven over mediumhigh heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes.

Stir in 3 cups broth, lentils, cumin, salt, cinnamon and red pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Place the lentil mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape). Secure blender lid on blender. Place clean towel over opening in blender (to avoid splatters).

Blend until smooth. Return lentil mixture to pan over medium heat. Add remaining ½ cup broth, 1 cup water and pumpkin to pan.

Cook for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in ginger and lemon juice. Ladle 1 ½ cups soup into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 2 teaspoons yogurt, 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serves four.

Pumpkin-walnut focaccia with Gruyére

¾ cup warm water (100° to 110°); 1/3 cup packed brown sugar; 1 package dry yeast; 3 ½ cups bread flour, divided; 3 tablespoons butter, melted; 1 cup canned pumpkin; 1 teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg; ¾ cup (3 ounces) grated Gruyére cheese, divided; cooking spray; 1 teaspoon cornmeal; and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.

Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour and butter to yeast mixture; stir just until combined.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 30 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt and nutmeg to flour mixture, stir until well combined. Add 2 ¼ cups flour and half of cheese, stir until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Press two fingers into dough, if indentation remains, dough has risen enough. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; shape each half into an 8-inch circle. Place dough circles on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle remaining cheese and nuts over dough circles; press lightly to adhere. Lightly coat dough circles with cooking spray; cover and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Uncover dough; bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and cheese melts (shield loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary). Cool on wire rack.

Makes two loaves.

Fettuccine with pumpkin sauce

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine; 2 Applewood-smoked bacon slices, chopped; 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage, divided; 2 garlic cloves, minced; ¾ cup canned pumpkin puree; 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup); 3/8 teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; 2 tablespoons heavy cream; and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until almost crisp, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon sage and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in pumpkin puree, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add pasta, reserved ¾ cup cooking liquid and heavy cream, toss to coat. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sage and parsley.

Serves four.

Enjoy your delicious pumpkin. Until next time keep Cooking on Purpose.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com.

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